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Govt should route educational DTH channels through Prasar Bharati: TRAI

MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has recommended that the non-commercial, educational use of direct-to-home (DTH) channels, by the Central and state governments, should be done through the Prasar Bharati route, on the basis of suitable agreements between Prasar Bharati and the Central/state governments concerned.

TRAI has been consistent in its stand that government or government-owned entities must not be allowed to enter the broadcasting space.

The authority also stated that Prasar Bharati should ensure that content dissemination through such non-commercial, educational channels comply with the code and conduct of broadcasting established in India such as programme code, AIR code, etc. and that the content disseminated through such channels can form part of any regular Prasar Bharati channel.

It also suggested that the allocation of transponder capacity to the Central/state governments for running DTH educational channels on a non-commercial basis should be done in a careful and judicious manner as the transponder capacity is a scarce resource as on date.

It further added that the allocation of transponder capacity should not lead to a situation where transponder capacity is kept idling when at the same time service providers are kept waiting for the same, thus adversely impacting the expansion and improvement of quality of their services.

It also reiterated its earlier recommendations that the government must ensure (a) further strengthening the maintenance of an arm’s-length relationship between Prasar Bharati and the government and (b) ensuring functional independence and autonomy of Prasar Bharati.

The recommendations came in response to a reference by the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting (MIB) dated 31 October 2014 wherein the ministry had sought recommendations from the authority on the use of DTH by Central and state governments and guidelines thereon.

In its reference, the ministry had said that several state governments are operating educational DTH channels as part of the EDUSAT programme under the Satellite Communication Policy framework of the Department of Space (DoS).

Following the authority’s discussions with the MIB, it emerged that the said reference had emanated from a meeting held on 17 October 2014 in the Prime Minister’s Office chaired by the Principal Secretary to PM on the issue of broadcasting education programme on DTH for non-commercial purposes.

On the issue of whether EDUSAT programme falls under broadcasting, the authority said that the definitions of ‘broadcasting’ and ‘broadcasting services’ under the Broadcasting Bill 2007 make it amply clear that content dissemination through the EDUSAT programme should be categorised as broadcasting.